Term Paper: Race Critical Theories Modernity, Race and Morality

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Race Critical Theories

Modernity, Race and Morality by David Theo Goldberg

Goldberg looks at how racial exclusion has been justified by a society's prevailing moral standards. Goldberg looks historically at race, and determines that in classical Greece and in medieval times, there was no conception of race. While both societies did exclude people, those exclusions were not race-based. As a matter of fact, "the concept of race enters European social consciousness more or less explicitly in the fifteenth century...It is only from this point on that social differentiation begins increasingly to take on a specifically racial sense." (Goldberg p. 284). Goldberg proves this assertion by examining historical texts for the use of race, and indicates that earlier societies demonstrated a feeling of cultural superiority, but not of racial superiority. By the Middle Ages, people began to be classified in terms of rational capabilities, and these classifications showed the origins of racial classification; for example, Pygmies were seen as less capable of rational thought than other men. (Goldberg, p. 285). By the late 1600's, the concept of racial exclusion was so entrenched that there was no apparent inconsistency in John Locke writing about slavery being incompatible with a free society, but also supporting the concept of African slaves. (Goldberg, p. 288). Furthermore, as society became more racialized, the concept of beauty became synonymous with race, and Africans and their slave descendants began to be viewed as naturally subservient and impoverished, because of their forced subservience and poverty. (Goldberg, p. 291).

Goldberg's concept of race, rationality, and morality seems very plausible. Many of the arguments today about white superiority continue to talk about racial superiority in terms of rational thought. Some of the arguments talk about the greater intellectual capabilities of whites, while others suggest that non-whites have poorer impulse control. While such arguments already appear patently ridiculous to an educated audience, they become even more ridiculous when confronted by the relative newness of race-based exclusion.

Whiteness and Ethnicity in the History of "White Ethnics in the U.S.A." By David Roediger

When one discusses racial issues in the United States, the conversation frequently turns to issues of black and white, and how to define people who were white. However, the history of racism in the United States is much greater than simply a black-white issue; any people categorized as non-white have been subject to racial oppression. However, as society has evolved, so has the definition of white or Caucasian, such that race-based discrimination and white privilege have impacted different groups in different ways, depending upon these definitions. The reality is that classification as white or non-white has impacted the treatment of different ethnicities, and Roediger's essay helps explain how and why those different classifications arose.

The identification of certain ethnic groups as non-white seems so ingrained in American society that many may be unaware that they were not always so identified. For example, "Asian Indians and Mexican-Americans were at least partly identified as white before becoming nonwhite." (Roediger, p.326). In fact, even people now firmly identified as white, such as the Irish, were initially not regarded as white by most Americans. Roediger does not imply that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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